Business insights are integral to any technology company. For tech sales and marketers, leveraging business insights in your account planning can make the difference in aligning your sales process to the buying process and ultimately closing the deal.

What Are Business Insights?

A business insight is an input to a decision. These decisions can range from sales planning to sales execution, the way your salespeople interact with your customers. A data business analyst creates business insights by collecting, organizing, and analyzing raw data and presenting the results in a clear, usable format. Experienced managers and salespeople can also provide business insights based on intangibles, such as their knowledge of a company’s culture.

Why Business Insights Are Important for Tech Startups

Develop a better understanding of technology buyers and what they want. Selling tech to individual consumers can be a challenge but selling tech in the B2B world is more complex.

Per Gartner, B2B sellers need to understand three characteristics of B2B buyers. First, the B2B tech buyer is not a single person. Instead, the “buyer” is a cross-functional team. This team can involve more than 20 people, most of them in senior operations or product roles outside of IT. To succeed, sales planning needs to appeal to these senior managers as well as to IT.

Second, tech-buying teams need metrics to support their buying decisions. Typically, these metrics come from business cases. A business case analyzes the benefits, costs, and risks of alternatives and provides a rationale for the preferred option. In fact, more than 90 percent of organizations use business cases, and they expect and welcome input from potential vendors. By focusing on business value vs. functions, you can help the buying team understand how your solution will contribute to the organization’s success.

Third, you need to understand the psychology of team members. Few feel confident. The most effective way to increase their confidence is to follow best practices and use business insights to show how your solution will help the company. A successful sales plan recognizes this psychology and builds a sales team that can boost this confidence.

Support the use of insight selling. Insight selling is the use of business insights in sales planning and execution.

Traditionally, B2B tech sales teams have relied on solution selling, the process of helping a company analyze its problem and then selling a “solution” made up of tech products and services.

Yet, as far back as 2012, Harvard Business Review declared “The End of Solution Sales.” What happened to justify this declaration? According to a Forbes analysis, two seemingly opposite trends ended the domination of solution selling.

First, tech-buying teams became more sophisticated and felt solution sales was a waste of time. Through their own experience and access to the internet, tech-buying teams could analyze a problem and research tech solutions on their own. By the time a salesperson arrived, the tech-buying team felt it understood the problem, had a list of buying options, and needed help with just a few questions.

Second, tech-buying decisions became more complex and involved new, rapidly evolving technologies. The best example is a company’s “digital transformation,” the interconnected products and services it uses to present itself on the internet and to connect online and legacy systems. Given the need to prevent data breaches and comply with privacy regulations, many tech buyers feel overwhelmed.

Fortunately, insight selling can be used to understand and meet the needs of every tech-buying team. Business insights, for example, can help to understand the tech-buying team, the organization’s experience in making tech-buying decisions, and it’s technical sophistication. Insight selling can also be used in sales training. Given the option, tech-buying teams prefer to work with salespeople who present themselves as trusted advisors and consultants.

Gain market advantage over competitors. Business insights can reveal unmet needs in the marketplace. By meeting these unmet needs, your company can gain a competitive advantage and even dominate its market segment.

Five Best Sources of Business Insights

Often, the best sources of business insights are hidden in plain sight, if you know where to look. Here are the five best places to look.

  1. Monitor customer activity. Modern marketing is all about metrics: Total sales, top sellers, revenue, performance per sales channel, and so on. Most CRM (customer relationship management) tools also reveal secondary information about customer buying habits by geographic region, time of day, customer type, purchase type, product category, and pricing.
    You can also gather data from non-traditional channels, such as social media: The number of people who follow your product or service; how often they respond to your posts, and so on.
  2. Ask for customer feedback. A good marketer is always on the alert for opportunities to get customer feedback and obtain early insights into changing customer preferences. Crafting a good survey is both a science and an art. Some are relatively simple, such as the rate-your-experience-from-one-to-five surveys that are offered at the end of a call to Tech Support. Others are more complex and may involve in-person interviews with both loyal and dissatisfied customers. Social media is another good place to look for customer feedback.
  3. Monitor the competition. A good marketer also monitors the competition and its performance, as indicated by readily available public sources. Another useful tool is a subscription to syndicated data compiled by a marketing research firm.
  4. Use Business Intelligence (BI) to analyze raw data. Business intelligence (BI) is software that can be used to analyze large collections of raw data in a data warehouse. BI analysis can reveal patterns in the data and suggest action plans. Typically, BI output is presented as a multidimensional report (a data cube) that allows business users to drill down and create their own reports, graphs, charts, and maps, which can be incorporated into business insights.
  5. Use A/B testing, analysis, and business cases to augment business insights. Often data analysis will suggest alternative and equally appealing options. When faced with such a dilemma, an effective marker uses testing to evaluate each option. A/B testing, for example, can be used to evaluate two sales campaigns and how their wording affects sales. A business case, which collects and analyzes all total costs and potential risks for a technical change, may also be a useful input to a business insight.

How to Start Using Business Insights in Sales Planning

Clearly, a SaaS or tech company that wants to use business insights should look for ways to incorporate them in its sales planning.

This is not a casual decision because it involves at least three major expenses in terms of time and money. First, the company must invest in tools to collect and analyze data as well as intangible insights. Second, the company needs to develop a system of processes and procedures for generating and using business insights. Third, the company must invest in people by training or hiring employees with the skills to develop and use business insights.

SaaS and other technology companies often find it faster and less expensive to turn to consultants to help them implement the use of business insights. Emissary is always willing to help. Instead of developing a done-for-you technical solution, Emissary’s human intelligence network helps you develop a system for building business insights based on both raw data as well as intangibles. These intangibles come from the experience of our Advisor Network and its ability to provide insights into company culture. Emissary will ensure your company understands business insights and can use them in your sales planning and execution. For more information, contact us.